Houseparty says hacking claims are a ‘smear campaign’, offers $1m reward

31 Mar 2020490 Views

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The Houseparty app. Image: Houseparty

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Houseparty developers have denied rumours that the app was the victim of a data breach, claiming instead that it is the victim of a smear campaign.

An app that has exploded in popularity in recent weeks, since millions around the world have been asked to stay indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic, is now claiming it is the victim of a smear campaign.

Houseparty, bought by Epic Games in 2019, is an app that allows groups of people to video chat and remotely play a series of online games such as Heads Up. According to Apptopia, Houseparty is currently the most downloaded app on both iOS and Android in Ireland.

However, social media was swirling with claims this week that after downloading the app, users were finding that other apps –such as Netflix and Spotify – were being accessed by hackers.

Twitter users shared screenshots allegedly showing emails warning them that their accounts were being accessed from other parts of the world, and blamed Houseparty for the breach.

Today (31 March) Houseparty tweeted that it is “investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors [sic] were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign”. The tweet also said that it is offering a $1m bounty to identify proof of the alleged campaign.

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‘All houseparty accounts are safe’

In response to queries from Siliconrepublic.com, a spokesperson for the app said it found “no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of unrelated accounts”.

“As a general rule, we suggest all users choose strong passwords when creating online accounts on any platform,” they said. “Use a unique password for each account, and use a password generator or password manager to keep track of passwords, rather than using passwords that are short and simple.”

At the height of the rumours on social media, a tweet from the developers said: “All houseparty accounts are safe. The service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

When installed, the app does not require third-party access to other apps. However, it does seek access to a person’s contacts and connections on various social media platforms.

The news comes after a number of Houseparty users reported that strangers were entering their group chats. Unless a chat has been specifically locked, any user around the world can access the group chat.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com